25 YEARS AGO: San Francisco Voters Approve Domestic Partnerships: 1990.The road to providing even limited recognition of same-sex couples was long and plagued by seeming dead ends. In 1983, and in response to numerous reports of longtime partners being barred from their loved ones’ hospital rooms and funerals, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors enacted a Domestic Partnership ordinance. The law created a partnership registry and gave registered partners of city employees the same benefits as those available to spouses of married couples. It also ensured that domestic partners were granted the same visitation rights at city hospitals. But owing to tremendous pressure exerted by Catholic Archbishop John Quinn and much of the rest of the major religious leaders — including the Episcopal bishop — Mayor Dianne Feinstein vetoed the bill, much to the fury of San Francisco’s gay community.
Feinstein left office in 1988, and the following year the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a Domestic Partnership ordinance which, this time, was signed into law by Mayor Art Agnos. But before it could take effect, the ordinance became the subject of a repeal initiative. That initiative narrowly won by fewer than 2,000 votes with an unusually high turnout for an off-year election. This time the gay community fought back in 1990 with Proposition K, which provided for a more limited version of Domestic Partnership without formal benefits. This time, Prop K prevailed, 60% to 40%. The registry went into effect the following Valentine’s Day.